Progress is a funny thing, you can be making it without even realising and then one day you think, wow I’m doing this thing that I thought I couldn’t do! It can creep up on you, all those little things you’ve been determined to do. Slowly, quietly, all the times you drag yourself out somewhere when you would give pretty much anything to stay in bed, they add up and suddenly you’ve done it. You’ve made ‘progress’. Go you.
Unfortunately, regression (to regress is the opposite of making progress, I googled it for good English purposes) can creep up on you in just the same way. Also, slowly, also quietly, and with the same wow (but definitely not a good wow) you realise that crap, I can’t do this thing that I used to be able to do! Sucky. Recently this happened to me with two particular things; going into a pub / café / restaurant, and driving by myself. I couldn’t tell you how, or how long it’s taken, but I suppose I’ve got out of the habit of doing them and they became a big deal. Every time I decided not to do them, I was reinforcing the idea that they were somehow ‘scary’ or ‘dangerous’ and my brain was storing that info, so that the next time I went to do them it said “ohhh, hang on a sec, is that a good idea? I think not” … cheers brain. My own fault though! I know that to some of you, the idea of struggling to drive by yourself, or go and get a coffee with someone, is so alien that it seems unfathomable. That’s fine, no biggy, but it does happen, so just because you can’t understand it, don’t dismiss it.
I’ve been driving for 10 years (oh shit) and apart from not liking motorways, which I don’t think is that unusual, I’ve managed the whole driving thing pretty well. Then one day I realised that I didn’t want to drive on my own. Driving a few miles to some friends was suddenly a big deal. Ahhh crap. So, I had to get back into the habit, I had to break the cycle and sort this out pronto. Anxiety / agoraphobia love avoidance and I needed to make sure the avoidance ended now. Having my car and driving by myself is a major part of my independence, as it is for anyone who lives in the middle of nowhere, and there was No. Freaking. Way. that anxiety was getting its claws into this one. I’ve been helping with a production by my local drama group and that involves me driving to rehearsals a couple of times a week. It’s not a long journey at all, but that isn’t the point. There has been shaking, panicking, gripping of the steering wheel in a very unnecessary fashion, controlled breathing to deal with hyperventilating, the imagining of every driving based disaster possible in vivid detail, many swear words, a lot of resigned sighing and a large amount of frustration at how much of an effort just driving somewhere had become. Then last night I was driving home and I suddenly realised, I was just driving. Not stressing, not panicking, not scanning for potential disasters, not wondering if my brain and body had forgotten how to breath, not convincing myself that I’d drive off the road for no reason, not wondering if my eyes were going to stop working. Just driving, singing badly and pretending to be Joss Stone. It was the first time in a while that I’ve had a lightbulb moment of “I’M JUST DOING THIS THING!!” – look at me just driving, like a ‘normal person’!! Success.
That wasn’t my only recent success either. The other week I was getting ready to go to a one-to-one meeting with my… I’m gona go for mentor, for want of a better word. I was thinking “why am I even going, I’ve got nothing to tell her, I haven’t done anything” sad face. Then I remembered that she had said we could meet in a café or somewhere outside of the centre if I wanted, to try something different. So, on a whim I asked her if we could meet in a local pub/café/hotel place. I went (win), I got out of the car (win), I went inside (win), we got hot chocolates (double win), I drank it, we talked and I survived (fookin’ win). Things had got pretty crappy and doing something like that was a big no no, so to do it was like “wow, progress”. Cliché bloody progress bitches. I even instagrammed the cup as PROOF. Next time you’re in Costa, or Startaxavoiders, or other coffee chains are available, just take a second to appreciate the fact that you can go buy hot beverages without panic attacks.
So yer, forward is forward, even if it is bloody slow. Your life, your pace innit. And these moments WILL happen, they will, I promise. You WILL find yourself driving home one night making a genuinely surprised face and thinking “and that, bitches, is how it’s DONE”.